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How Domestic Violence Should Not Be Storyline for Reality TV

In late June, Real Housewives of Orange County star Gina Kirschenheiter filed a restraining order against her soon-to-be ex-husband Matthew Kirschenheiter after, according to news reports, he was arrested and booked for alleged domestic violence. He was released without bail and not charged with a crime.

Gina filed for divorce in April 2018, but the dissolution stalled and the couple might have been attempting reconciliation, some reports say. But Gina tells a different story. On the night of June 22, the couple had a physical altercation. Matthew threatened to kill her, she says. Neighbors got involved. The police arrived and arrested Matthew. That was not the first time Matthew abused her, Gina says. Castmates and fans are shocked. This was the first they had heard about possible spousal abuse. Why hadn't she spoken up before?

I don't presume to have any personal knowledge about the Kirschenheiter's marriage, but I do know a lot about domestic violence allegations during a marriage dissolution. Unless you have solid evidence that your spouse is abusive to you or your children - and by that I mean signs of physical harm -- don't do it. That Matthew was released without bail tells me Gina had no physical injuries from the argument.

Divorce is not a war (although some lawyers might tell you that it is). It is a negotiation. Alleging unsubstantiated domestic violence isn't a strategic negotiating tactic to coerce a spouse to move beyond an entrenched position regarding such matters as finances or custody. It is the equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb into the middle of your divorce. Nothing will be the same after it hits, and people involved won't recover for a long time, if ever.

Is it too outrageous for me to suggest that Gina might be seeking fresh fodder for her reality TV show? Here's one scenario: Matthew is charged with spousal battery. Gina wins the sympathy of RHOC fans. She files in civil court for damages from the battery. She petitions the family law court for spousal support (even if they have a pre-marital agreement that does not allow for it). In addition to a family lawyer, Matthew must hire a criminal and a civil lawyer. Faced with paying legal bills from three lawyers, Matthew will do almost anything to make the allegations go away. Gina wins the divorce battle, but it is a dubious victory if the assets are gone and the children traumatized.

All that means another exceptional season of trash TV. But I won't be watching.

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